According to the Centers for Disease Control, in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, we should wear cloth face masks in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. And kids are no exception. Per the Academy of Pediatrics, children older than two years old should also wear masks when outside of the home and unable to social distance (like at the grocery store or doctor’s office).
But getting kids to actually wear the damn things is like asking them to eat their greens or keep their Sunday best wrinkle-free. In other words, practically impossible. So we tapped three moms who have successfully wrangled their children into them for their tips. Read on for how to get kids to keep their face masks on long enough for you to, um, do whatever it was you needed to do in the first place.
(Note: Babies and toddlers under the age of two should not wear masks, which could pose a choking hazard.)
1. Make sure it's actually a child-size mask. Mom of two Jillian tried giving her kids adult masks and quickly realized that they wouldn’t work, which is why she now insists on buying masks specifically made for kids so that they fit correctly and comfortably. Many child masks also have fun prints like cars, unicorns and Disney characters. Here are some of our favorite picks.
2. Add a cape and make it a superhero outing. Here’s a pro tip from Marissa, a mom of four and founder of accessories company (including these adorable face masks) Rafi Nova: Wearing a mask is a lot more fun when you’re also sporting a cape and off on a secret mission to pick up supplies. So the next time you need to swing by the pharmacy, tell your mini to put on last year’s Halloween costume because it’s time to save the world from those icky germs—one bottle of hand sanitizer at a time.
3. Help them make a matching mask for their favorite stuffed animal. Another way to help get your child more comfortable with the idea of wearing a mask? Give one to Bobo the bear too, says Marissa. There’s no need to bring out the sewing kit for this one, you can just tie a bandana around the toy’s head.
4. Talk to them about why they have to wear a mask. If your children are old enough, explain that we have to wear masks for the same reason we sneeze into our arms and wash our hands throughout the day. Here’s how mom Jillian puts it, “Germs are jumpy, and we want to keep them from getting onto other people's bodies.”
5. Turn it into a guessing game. Here’s a fun activity from Marissa (plus a great way to pass the time when you’re waiting in line to get into the grocery store): As you wear your mask, turn to your kid and ask them if you’re frowning or smiling underneath. Then, it’s your child’s turn to make a face and your turn to guess. Bonus points for whoever manages to make an angry face undetected.
6. Normalize it. Suddenly seeing everyone wearing masks outside is a little scary. One way mom of three Lauren helped her kids get used to the new normal was by showing them pictures of their friends wearing masks. (“See, look at Ben wearing his mask!”)
7. Bribe and reward. When all else fails, Lauren turns to the classic parenting trick—bribe, baby, bribe. “When our kids wear their masks, we give them loads of praise for it. And then we give them Frozen stickers.” Hey, whatever works.